With the U.S. economy on an upswing and corporate tax breaks a reality, companies across America are expected to take an even more robust approach to meetings and events in 2018. This is welcome news versus a few short years ago when the M&E industry struggled.
Two things that seem impervious to economic ups and downs are communication technology and audiences’ thirst for engaging, meaningful gatherings that leave them informed and inspired to perform at higher levels. As planners and meeting hosts, it’s critically important we do everything we can to deliver against that desire.
And it all begins with an effective communication srategy – before, during and after a program. The nature of the communication evolves from informative in the pre-event phase, enlightenment during the actual program, and reinforcement in the post-event phase. So, what are some of the event technology trends and opportunities we should know about?
Online, Direct Meeting Space Booking
There are approximately 1.8 million business meetings held annually in the U.S. with the majority of those falling into the small-meeting classification (maximum 50 people, minimal A-V, single-room sessions, etc.). Venues have traditionally assigned a Sales Representative and Conference Services Manager to these types of events, just as they would a four-day, three-night gathering for 300 attendees. This burns time and money, and bean-counters at these properties know it.
As a result, more and more hotels and other meeting venues are opening up online, direct meeting space booking via software such as Spacer, EventUp, Ivvy, MeetingsBooker, Groupsie, Bizly and eVenues. No more phone tag when you need to communicate a change, update a listing, change space assignments, etc. With software like this, you’re fully empowered to do it yourself in real time at any hour of the day, or day of the week.
Look for this trend to pick up steam, much like online registration and event apps did a few years ago.
Speaking of online registration and event apps …
Save-the-Dates, eVites, Online Registration and Social Media Must Play Well Together
Clear, consistent and well-thought-out communication planning and messaging is key to getting the most out of your Save-the-Date eNotification, online registration page, social media, on-the-fly alerts and updates, and post-event communiques. Make sure all your ducks are in a row from a messaging and technical standpoint for all of these before launching any of them. The tone of all communication should be informative, upbeat and helpful for your meeting participants, and the linkage between all should be obvious.
Another thing to keep in mind is that each of these communication “touch points” are an opportunity to seed and reinforce key messages. You can set expectations properly with effective pre-event messaging, keep everyone up-to-date and informed with on-the-fly messaging, and sustain the positive momentum of a successful event with timely post-event messaging that reinforces and strengthens critical info shared at the actual event.
Need for Mobile Strategies
Today’s world has fully embraced the notion of There’s an app for that! We assume, when we have questions or a need to know something, that we can simply whip out the cell phone and get what we need. Same is true for meeting and event attendees. Thus, it’s imperative that we think through a Mobile Strategy early in the event communication planning process.
This includes a dynamic, event-specific app (with agendas, floorplans, location services, recommended attire, weather, etc.) that can not only be updated quickly but push out alerts when information changes. Assign someone to refresh and update the app at various times during the day to condition your attendees to consult the app for need-to-know info. The app should also include links to related sites and info resources.
You also need to factor in how you will leverage Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Facebook Live, etc.
Event Wayfinding Will Find Its Way into More and More Events
Satellite-based Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are typically sketchy in indoor environments. The lesser-known IPS (Indoor Positioning Systems) have been tested with sometimes-successful, sometimes-not results. An alternative to helping attendees navigate your venue or meeting space is wifi-based Google Indoor Maps with a position accuracy of 15-45 feet (not quite like the 10-square-foot precision of outdoor GPS). Beacon technology is also becoming more and more popular. Look for significant improvements in event wayfinding options as Augmented Reality (AR), a technology that overlays a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, becomes more widely implemented.
Automated check-in kiosks or terminals such as Check In Easy and Boomset are becoming more and more common, lessening the need for onsite-reg desks and multiple staffers, reducing wait times to seconds versus minutes, and eliminating the need for large, clunky binders full of spreadsheets and rooming/registration lists. These kiosks and terminals can also communicate changes in program details, updates, etc. so the attendee is fully informed.
These are but five emerging or strengthening trends in communication for corporate meetings and events. Bottom line: As communication technology evolves (as it’s been doing for years at a shockingly rapid rate), there will be more and more ways for us to connect more effectively and efficiently with attendees. We should not only be aware of what’s available but consider it seriously when planning the next exceptional meeting or event.
Every day, it seems, there’s something new and cool in event technology. Staying current on the latest and greatest will help you best serve the needs of your meeting and event participants.
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